Before “Sharknado”, this was one of the most famous TV movies of all time. That it’s slid a little from the public consciousness is evident by the first search for the word turning up a chap in 2004 who went on a rampage with a modified bulldozer and destroyed a town hall, the Mayor’s house and a bunch of other buildings in small-town Colorado. But Conan O’Brien mentioning it several times on “The Tonight Show” lead to millions of Youtube hits, a band named themselves after it, the media named the above incident after it, and “Mystery Science Theater 3000” tried extremely hard to get the rights to it so they could feature it on the show.
It shares several traits with other TV movies from the 70s we’ve covered on the ISCFC; namely, the Doctor Strange and Captain America ones. Not so much the wild superhero antics, but the surprising amount of “dead air” – it appears movies moved slower back then, or just weren’t afraid to have less stuff happen. Or (last hypothetical, I promise) entertainment like this just wasn’t made for young people (the superhero movies would have been stultifyingly dull for their intended audience). What makes this one tough to swallow is it has an exclamation mark in the title! That should guarantee excitement, surely!
Based on a story by sci-fi great Theodore Sturgeon (who also co-wrote the script), we’re treated to some low-end (even for the time) meteor special effects, some time in Earth’s distant past, before being dropped in with a group of construction workers in the present day. They’re on an island off the coast of Africa, knocking down the old military buildings there in order to prepare the land for a mine. Robert Urich, the most recognisable face (“Dirty Dozen” actor Clint Walker is the star, but he’s too Western-y an actor for me to know well) uncovers that meteor, and in a haze of glowing blue light, some sort of energy passes from rock to bulldozer.
I don’t know if you were expecting much of a recap from me, but that’s about all you’re going to get. There’s six workers, and they get picked off until the survivors eventually figure out that a bulldozer chasing people, killing them and driving itself merrily is a bit out of the ordinary; even then, it’s an extremely curious “action” movie, one where hunter and hunted are aware of each other at all times and just sort of keep an eye on each other until it’s time for the dumb humans to make a lame run for some sort of safety, or the enormous bright yellow piece of earthmoving equipment to get way too close. Seriously, dumb-dumbs, if it starts moving towards you, run away! Run up hill! We’re treated to that sneaky trick of movies since time immemorial – if you can’t see a large vehicle , you can’t hear it either – a few more times than is strictly necessary.
It would also appear that all six men are suicidal, as there are several occasions where Killdozer comes steaming towards them and their response is to…lie where they fell. Come on, fellas! Up and at ‘em! But while I mock, they really bother to give the men personalities – foreman Lloyd (Walker) is a straight-laced recovering alcoholic, Chub (Neville Brand) is the crusty old mechanic and Dutch (James Krasner) is the guy who really wants you to know he was Robert Urich’s best friend. They’re dependable actors, for sure.
One ought to doff the cap to a movie which does a half decent job of convincing you a giant barely mobile bulldozer could be a realistic threat to an agile group of humans who could very easily just hop onto the beast and wreck its engine; and unless I knew beforehand, I don’t think I’d see this as a TV movie. Okay, the scale is pretty small – it’s a small group of shacks and lots of empty scrubland – but they make it look as cinematic as possible, with one or two really well-composed shots.
I don’t have the fond childhood memories of it that some reviewers do, so I’m coming into this review cold, as you are too (if you’re reading reviews). A rather slow, not enormously entertaining movie, but one which is weirdly fascinating and hopefully worth your time.
Rating: thumbs in the middle